Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Building a Growth Agency that Doubles in Size Every Year

Mostafa ElBermawy
Mostafa ElBermawy
February 17, 2021
Category of startup
Marketing
Country of startup
United States
Revenue of startups
No Data
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Building a Growth Agency that Doubles in Size Every Year

Mostafa ElBermawy
Mostafa ElBermawy
February 17, 2021
Category of startup
Marketing
Country of startup
United States
Cause of failure of the startup

Mostafa is the founder of NoGood, a growth agency for startups, surged from his realization about the limits of being a solo consultant. NoGood gets its clients through word of mouth and SEO and the team is doubling in size every year.

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Hi Mostafa! Who are you and what are you currently working on?

My name is Mostafa ElBermawy. I'm the founder and CEO of NoGood, a Growth and Performance Marketing Agency based out of New York City. 

I started my life as an archaeologist, but somehow I ended up digging for growth instead of mummies, and now I run a growth marketing agency in addition to running an angel investment fund focused on early-stage SaaS and DTC brands. 

NoGood's homepage


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

After I realized hieroglyphics werenʼt paying the bills, I taught myself how to code and started a web design studio after college. I began building websites for clients, but after they started asking me how to drive more users to their sites, I found my personality and traits lean more towards marketing, the intersection of creative communication, engineering, and data analytics. 

Growth became a new curiosity of mine, and I eventually joined the Bing team at Microsoft, then the digital experience team at American Express. These roles helped me gain some marketing and growth experience, and I ended up falling in love with that part of the job. 

Since then, I've worked for many VC-backed tech startups, including the director of growth marketing at CGS, then working as a growth lead at Harver, a leading startup in the AI recruitment space, as well as Workzone, a project management software startup. All these experiences taught me how to build growth teams from the ground up, design a GTM strategy, and discover the ingredients that drive acquisition or retention growth in a hyper-competitive market.

I later became a startup growth advisor for various accelerators and venture funds to help founders define and understand their growth strategy.

I quickly realized the limitations of being a solo consultant and the power of being part of a team. As the demand increased, I decided to build the growth team I've always dreamed of when I was in-house, so I started what is now NoGood.

How did you go from idea to product?

Having worked in the industry for a while, I knew some people who were experts in various disciplines that could help drive results for our early clients. When we started in 2017, NoGood was 100% remote.

Put a team of smart marketers together and they’ll always be able to drive results. However, the whole point of starting NoGood was to build something that was greater than the sum of its parts. This would require more team collaboration, culture, and more refined processes.

I made the first hire for the core team in early 2019, and we worked together out of a small office in a WeWork. By the end of the year, we had put together a real team with designers, developers, a data scientist, growth strategists, a few performance managers, and creative designers. 

We continued to expand the team in early 2020 as we brought on more clients, but as luck would have it, we’re right back to being remote.

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Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

Step one of growth marketing is always to start with a great product that delights users, so we worked hard to drive outstanding results for our early partners and let the work speak for itself, leading to many referrals.

These early clients were pivotal, both by proving our squad model works and for nominating us to TechCrunch, where we were selected as a Verified Expert Growth Marketing Agency, one of our first major PR victories.

So our primary acquisition tactic has really been focusing on driving exceptional quality of service to our existing clients. This often gets us more business within the brand and beyond when talents move between brands.  At the end of the day, we make a better margin in the long term, so fewer clients, higher quality is the way our model works best. 

Content marketing via our NoGood blog has been a great lever as well. Leveraging our growth marketing expertise in Content, Social, and SEO, our organic traffic is up over 630% year over year and has served as a reliable secondary source of lead generation.

As far as sales, a significant differentiator for NoGood is that we donʼt have a classic sales bench. From our first conversation, our clients work directly with our growth marketers, where we learn what success means to each business and how we can translate that success into measurable metrics. Clients often have a vague idea of what success looks like, but they donʼt really have well-defined metrics. Our team helps them define both from day one.

How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we've continued to expand our agency, adding more and more clients, particularly in the areas of collaboration B2B SaaS, DTC, and healthcare.

While gaining new clients and continuing to grow our team are always going to be top priorities, we also want to focus on building our own brand. Our team doubled in size in 2020, and we're hoping to double again in 2021. How do you develop and maintain a company culture while growing a remote team? It's certainly a challenge in the current environment, but one we're excited to work on.

Since starting NoGood, what have been your main lessons?

Many of our biggest lessons have been around defining and maintaining processes. We're all smart marketers who have great ideas and instincts. However, defining our frameworks and staying organized can be challenging, especially as we transitioned from an office to a completely remote team.

One example would be our project management. We first started using Monday.com, but the tool just wasn't being utilized, as people began just using their own "to-do" lists instead. We tried to bring it more to the forefront by integrating it with Slack, but instead, the constant notifications just drove everyone crazy. After some additional testing and research, we made the switch to Notion, where not only are we able to track tasks, but we can design our testing framework, track results and budgets, and consolidate meeting notes. This is still very much a work in progress. We still have a lot to tackle in 2021, but we have already learned that optimizing operations, workflows, and processes is a never-ending job, especially in a professional services business.

What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?

We really made a ton of mistakes until we found and defined the right attributes a partner should have in order to be a good fit for our business. 

Early on, one of the biggest mistakes we made was taking on clients who are trying to scale before they had a clear product-market fit. As a founder, I want to help them, but that led to a lot of frustration for my team. We've become a lot more selective with the clients we bring on and considerably improved at setting and managing expectations with our new clients.

We also stopped taking clients that are looking for a single channel to optimize without owning or being able to influence the journey we are sending users into.

In addition, we limited the industries and stages of startups or scale-ups to work with. It's really all about the fit for our model so we can maintain the quality of work and retention rate we have always had.

What tools & resources do you recommend?

Our blog contains recommendations for our favorite podcasts, newsletters, marketing books, and more. 

All of the content on our site is written by the strategists, managers, and analysts at NoGood, so these recommendations and thoughts come directly from the people who are driving growth for our clients.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can follow me on Twitter or Linkedin. You can also check some of my writings on the NoGood blog

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